Black and white photo of a young woman with glasses

Photograph: Kev Howard

We chatted to Ella Sanderson, a poet with Asperger syndrome. Ella uses poetry to express her experience of life on the spectrum. She started her poetry journey as a member of the Ilkley Young Writers and recently she took part in a BBC words first workshop with Malika Booker. Here she writes about the inspiration behind her writing, and taking her poetry from page to stage.

Everyone tells me that being on the autistic spectrum can be positive, and in some ways they are right. However, there are some aspects of life I really struggle with. My brain works differently to other people’s and this causes many arguments. I feel I live in a world that is not designed for me. Being on the spectrum means I have had to be very brave. As a result, I have overcome many difficult things. Life doesn’t come easily to me, so if I didn’t try at all I would get nowhere.

I feel I live in a world that is not designed for me.

I have always enjoyed doing English Literature at school but I didn’t start writing poetry until I joined Ilkley Young Writers. This experience changed me from being a shy girl to someone who could read and perform her poetry anywhere. I learnt so many skills, such as how to write, perform and capture an audience. I now love performing my poetry as it makes me feel free. In terms of poetic inspiration, I particularly enjoy Simon Armitage’s poems (who I worked with as part of his Stanza Stones project). I also love Hollie McNish.

I went on to write a collection of poems about being autistic as part of the Write a Collection in a Year course. I wrote about my Asperger syndrome to inspire other autistic people to not give up in life, and to help non-autistic people understand what life on the spectrum is like. My poems are short, blunt, and to-the-point, as I think this reflects the way many autistic people communicate.

I wrote about my Asperger syndrome to inspire other autistic people to not give up in life, and to help non-autistic people understand what life on the spectrum is like.

It took me about seven years until I was able to have an outside perspective on myself and finally write about my experience of being autistic. I believe the world needs to hear what life is actually like for people on the spectrum.

An extract from Ella’s poetry collection

Choices

Hanging down from the rail.
Ready to be chosen.
Pink and light
Is this right?
Heavy and thick.
Which one will fit?

A variety of answers to your questions.
Not knowing what is right.
Your mind dances across them like notes in a song.
Until everything jumbles up into one.
You’re waiting for someone else to come pick a top, move you along.
Just take a dress, try it on.
No matter how it looks.

By Ella Sanderson

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Looking for more ASD-themed poetry? Visit the Spectrummagazine's online poetry library for a diverse selection of verse, written by autistic people.

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